Arts & Humanities: Don't Leave College Without Them

humanities “soft skills” become essential skills. As Anna Moro, Associate Dean of Humanities at McMaster University, writes, “They are the foun- dational skills that allow us to learn and live and work productively with other people. They are the skills that determine our chances of succeed- ing. They are the skills of leadership.” To prove her point: about 60% of American CEOs have a bachelor’s degree in the humanities. What is it about humanities that makes great leaders? What humanities teach is how to understand, connect, and be human. When we read, we are invited into the mind of another person--learn- ing how to interpret the most personal thing about someone. When we write, we must trans- late what is in our minds to make it palatable for others. When we make art, we invite others to feel our emotions. When we speak another language, we take courage to build a bridge in hopes to find new pastures and invite others to ours. Even when we learn a dead language, we do it to read. Why would anyone learn Latin any- more? To dedicate oneself to learning Latin is solely for the pleasure of reading histories of life in the ancient world. What we seek when we study humanities is to listen and to be heard, and to never forget the voices that have spoken be- fore us. Those who study humanities know how to connect with others and they know how to understand others. They have invaluable social skills and high emotional intelligence that makes them valuable in any field. Moros reveals that in a study from five American medical schools, they found that “trainee doctors who were exposed to the humanities had high levels of positive personal qualities such as empathy, tolerance for ambiguity, wisdom, emotional intelligence, self-efficacy, and visual-spatial skills.” Those with science backgrounds soared above their peers when they added the humanities, which shows that the value of humanities has massive impact on our lives. Imagine going to a doctor who is not empathetic? I’d rather let my wound fester.

I graduated with a Bachelor's degree in English, with Com - puter Science and Spanish as minors. After graduating, I moved to Spain to work as a language assistant in public, bilingual high schools, helping students improve their English. After a couple years, I moved back to the U.S. to be a high school English as a Second Language teacher in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where I work with students from all over the world. My education and experience gave me the adaptable people skills, cultural sensitivity, and empathetic nature to find a career that I love!

What is it about the humanities that make sci- ence-inclined folks turn up their nose? Before you accuse me of overgeneralizing (and I am, to an extent), let me recount my first-hand experi - ence with exactly this lack of interest in the arts. I, an English major, lived with two Mechanical En - gineering majors in my last year of college. With graduation approaching, my mechanical engi- neers were forced to take “Introduction to Poetry” to fulfil their general educational requirement in the humanities. One of them looked forward to the opportunity to switch up her classwork, trad- ing tedious calculations for creativity. She was already friendly with her artistic side as a talent- ed zentangle (a type of intricate, precise design that marries well with an engineering brain) art- ist, which I believe contributed to her receptive nature. The other was an engineer through-and- through, and would often complain about the simplicity of the class . She thought of the class as something to just “get out of the way.” I urged her to enter the class with an open mind, hoping that the touch of Englishy thinking would broaden her perspective; I hoped she’d enjoy the class, or at the very least, find some value in it that would reduce her condescending attitude towards the humanities. I wish I could say that I had an underdog story here. Unfortunately, this friend rushed through her English assignments without care or interest, ignored the readings, blew off class, yet held onto a fondness for the professor because of his “easi- ness.” The other engineer, by contrast, dedicated valuable brainpower and time to her assignments and took pride in her work. She even took the chance to discuss the texts outside of class with me. I am happy that both of my engineering friends had the opportunity to explore the humanities, and for that I thank my liberal arts school. It’s becoming increasingly important for people to realize the value in the humanities. As more and more jobs become automated, it’s important to have skills that are uniquely human. Whether that comes from a shift towards the humanities or a more humanities-inclined STEM approach, these



After about the 15th “So, are you going to teach?” question, I started to get outwardly an- gry and made my anger known. No, that is not my only option, I often reminded people. I could do anything: I have skills that can be applied anywhere. I had learned more useful “real life” skills than many of my science major counter- parts. I could write a concise, professional email in a few short minutes, whereas my engineering friends spent hours drafting and re-drafting. I could read anything you threw at me and be able to discuss it as if I were an expert, whereas my mathematic friends gave a shrug and an “I don’t know” if they came across any unfamiliar ideas. Sure, my STEM friends had developed laboratory and research skills, and our liberal arts education meant they had at least some basic reading and writing skills. But I realized that their limited exposure to and sweeping dismissal of humani- ties restricted them not only professionally, but personally.

The question I most often heard as a graduating senior who majored in English was: “So, are you going to teach?” From classmates to parents of friends to professors to alumni--a teaching posi- tion is apparently the only viable career path for anyone who studies literature. No disrespect to teachers, but this question makes me foam at the mouth. What is it about studying literature that quali- fies me only to show other people how to study literature? The frustrating question always left me feeling worthless, like the four years and thousands (and thousands) of dollars were all for naught. Did I really just waste my time and money for one career choice? Was deciding to study English a nail in my professional coffin? I chose a liberal arts school so that I could learn universal skills that could be applied to a range of occupations, but was there some hidden fine print, an asterisk next to English that said “exclu - sions apply”?

Even within STEM companies, humanities work - ers are needed. You might be surprised to learn


Arts & Humanities

Don’t Leave College Without Them


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